Perfectionism and Depression
Perfectionism and depression are common and I know this because my name’s Liz, and I’m a perfection-a-holic. I suspect that my unrelenting standards (mostly applied to myself) might be linked more than I care to admit to my long term depression. I suspect my perfectionism comes with my depression.
Why Can Being a Perfectionist Cause Depression?
If you never live up to the unrealistically high standards you set for yourself, you’re never likely to view yourself positively. That can lead to what I call the “depression cocktail.” Pour yourself a hefty shot of low self-esteem, top it up with a measure of anxiety, and then a slice of disappointment, and you’ve got the recipe for depression. If your perfectionism and unrealistically high standards also extend to other people, you also find yourself becoming increasingly dissatisfied with others, and this can affect your relationships at home and work.
Perfectionism -- You Are Your Own Worst Critic
I can honestly say that I’ve berated myself far more for the mistakes I’ve made than anyone else has. I’m six months into starting up a business, and I’ve had a few setbacks lately. A client got into financial difficulty, couldn’t pay me for the work I’d done, and cancelled further jobs. I then had a “dry patch” while I looked for things to fill the gap. Of course, perfectionist that I am, I took it personally, and saw it as a reflection on me and the quality of my work. My client’s financial problems were not of my making, and, of course, when you lose a gig, it takes time to fill the gap. But when you’re a perfectionist, you don’t tolerate things not going to plan, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend days obsessing over what you could have done to prevent the sky falling down (or whatever your current problem is). Despite their high standards and work ethics, perfectionists are not very resilient – and neither are those of us with depression.
Aim High But Don't Aim for Perfection to Avoid Depression
Aiming for excellence (and most importantly, doing your best) is a good thing. But aiming for excellence isn’t the same as aiming for perfection. When you expect yourself and the things you do to be flawless and error free, you are setting yourself up for failure. Because guess what? We’re human, and we make mistakes. We’re flawed. People who aim for excellence rather than perfection are much more likely to accept making the odd mistake or having the odd hiccup along the way.
Tips for Perfectionists – Avoid the Spiral into Depression
In this video, I outline some of the tips I’ve now started to arm myself with to fight my perfectionism and depression. Here's how you can start to build some resilience.
Image attribution: Lisa Towery, used under Creative Commons license.
Smith, L. (2015, June 21). Perfectionism and Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 6 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2015/06/perfectionism-and-depression
Author: Liz Smith
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